Everything is right on schedule for Scott Dixon _ for now.
He heads into Sunday's Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course with a series-leading four wins and the IndyCar Series points lead.
That's a step up from last year, when the New Zealander left Mid-Ohio with three straight victories, but still trailed eventual champion Dario Franchitti by 24 points. Eventually, though, Dixon caught and passed Franchitti, only to see him win the title when Dixon ran out of fuel while leading half a lap from the end of the season-finale at Chicagoland Speedway.
Dixon acknowledges that disappointment is never far from his mind as he chases his second series championship and first since 2003, even with Franchitti now racing in NASCAR.
Still, with six races remaining on the 2008 schedule and leads of 63 points over Mid-Ohio pole-winner Helio Castroneves and 69 over his Chip Ganassi teammate Dan Wheldon, Dixon insisted it's too early to be thinking about points.
"I think for us, you still go out and try to win races," he said Saturday after qualifying. "If you can win races, it's the easiest way to win championships. That's going to be our frame of mind and, when it comes to maybe the last one or the last couple of races, we'll starting thinking about the points and what we need to do."
Saturday was Penske Racing's day, with Castroneves, still seeking his first IndyCar title, and new teammate Ryan Briscoe taking the top two spots in qualifying. It is the first front row sweep for Penske since Castroneves won the pole and then-teammate Sam Hornish Jr. took the outside spot at Kentucky Speedway in 2006.
They were followed by Marco Andretti, IndyCar newcomer Justin Wilson and Tony Kanaan.
Dixon will start sixth on Sunday, exactly where he started last year's race.
But Dixon moved up quickly last year when three of the drivers ahead of him, Andretti Green Racing teammates Kanaan, Danica Patrick and Andretti, were involved in a first-lap accident that eliminated Andretti and put the other two behind.
Dixon eventually wound up playing the fuel economy game better than everyone else and led the last nine laps on the 13-turn, 2.258-mile road course.
So far this season, the luck again seems to be going Dixon's way.
Last week, on the 1.5-mile oval at Nashville, Dixon got the word too late to follow leader Tony Kanaan into the pits, inherited the lead and had enough fuel to stay there until rain ended the race with 29 laps left.
"It's tough when his team makes a mistake, or he makes a mistake, and ends up winning the race," Castroneves said. "This guys definitely has some luck but, hopefully, that luck is running out and now it's time for it to turn a little bit for us.
"But, we're not counting on that. We're not waiting for something to happen to them. We're just trying to executive and we've got a good chance to win this race, myself or Ryan, and hopefully take some points from Scott and get closer in the championship."
In IndyCar's new knockout-style road course qualifying, with drivers eliminated in two rounds before a final Firestone Fast Six session determines the front of the grid, Patrick _ who started second a year ago _ didn't make it out of the first round. She will start 20th on the 26-car grid.
Another disappointed driver was Wheldon, who has two victories this year and is also chasing his second IndyCar championship. The Englishman also failed to make it out of the first round of qualifying and will start 13th.